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What Is an Anesthesiology Assistant?

Anesthesiology assistants collect patient information, assist in patient evaluation and patient care and help develop therapeutic plans for the anesthetic care of patients. If you have excellent social interaction skills, are sensitive to patients' needs and have a knack for critical thinking and decisiveness, a job as an anesthesiology assistant might be right for you.

Duties of an Anesthesiology Assistant

As an anesthesiology assistant, you will assist anesthesiologists in coming up with and implementing anesthesia therapy plans. This will include collecting and studying patient records regarding any health issues or past health problems and procedures. You will also perform a multitude of tasks to prepare the patient for operation, including - under the supervision of the anesthesiologist - administering drugs to the patient.

Other duties include assisting with equipment checks and monitoring. This could include testing anesthesia systems designed for anesthesia delivery, patient monitors or many of the other systems for cardiac and neurological care. You may also have responsibility for operating room and laboratory machine care.

Important Facts About Anesthesiology Assistants

Median Salary (2019) $144,144*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 37% growth (for all physician assistants)**
Key Skills Reading comprehension, critical thinking, excellent judgment and decision making, customer focused, problem solving, situational awareness, proficient communication abilities
Similar Occupations Physicians; surgeons; physical therapists; occupational therapists; registered nurses; nurse anesthetists; nurse midwives; nurse practitioners

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment

Anesthesiology assistants often work alongside nurse anesthetists. The two professions have extremely similar job duties, and the main difference lies in the educational backgrounds. Another difference is that nurse anesthetists can work under the supervision of any physician, while anesthesiology assistants must be supervised by anesthesiologists. Most anesthesiology assistants work in large hospitals and medical facilities that work with trauma cases and perform cardiac procedures, neurosurgery and transplants. You may have to spend long hours on your feet if you are assisting in surgery.

Education

As an undergraduate, you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree program and take pre-medical courses. You must then earn a master's degree, which usually takes 24-28 months to complete. In a master's degree program, you'll complete both classroom and clinical training to gain the skills necessary to provide quality care to patients who are undergoing anesthesia. Specifically, you'll learn about monitoring patients, delivering anesthesia, operating life support machines and assessing patients. During your second year, you'll complete clinical rotations in different areas of medicine, such as pediatrics, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiac surgery and trauma.

Licensure

Anesthesiologist assistants are required to be licensed in 15 states as of March 2017, according to the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants. Specific licensure requirements vary by state, but you'll typically need to earn a degree from an approved program and pass the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) certification exam.

Certification

Certification is voluntary but demonstrates your competence to the public. The NCAA provides the certification exam for anesthesiologist assistants. To be eligible for the exam, you must be 21 years of age and a graduate of an accredited program or set to graduate within 180 days. Upon passing the certification exam, you'll be designated as a certified anesthesiologist assistant (AA-C). To renew your certification, you'll need to pass The Examination for Continued Demonstration of Qualifications of Anesthesiologist Assistants at regular intervals and earn continuing education credits.